Commonly Confused Words: ‘Advice’ and ‘Advise’
Welcome back to our ‘Commonly Confused Words’ series. We hope this series has been helpful and informative for you. If this is your first time reading a ‘Commonly Confused Words’ article, we encourage you to read our earlier instalments on practice and practise; alternate and alternative; their, they’re and there; lay and lie; and affect and effect.
As with our other articles in this series, our aim in this post is to explain the difference between some of the most misused or misunderstood words in academic writing. Today our topic is ‘advice’ and ‘advise’. We’re also going to squeeze in an explanation about the distinction between ‘advise’ and ‘inform’ because many writers treat these words, incorrectly, as synonyms.
We rely on the Macquarie Dictionary—the authority on Australian English spelling—for our definitions, and will offer plenty of examples to help you know the difference between ‘advice’ and ‘advise’.
‘Advice’ (like ‘practice’ from our earlier article in this series) is a noun. We remember ‘practice’ and ‘advice’ are both nouns because they end in ‘ice’—‘ice’ is, of course, a noun.
‘Advice’ means ‘an opinion recommended, or offered, as worthy to be followed’. You give advice; you receive advice. Advice can be unwelcome; in fact, someone may demand you take advice (that is, you ‘listen to and follow advice’). Sometimes ‘advice’ means a ‘formal or professional opinion … especially by a barrister’.
‘Advise’ is a verb—an action. It means ‘to give counsel to’ or ‘offer an opinion to’. It’s possible to be advised against keeping company with a particularly wayward individual. You may have been advised to put on a coat before going outside in the rain. The phrase ‘please advise’ pops up from time to time in email correspondence—more on that later.
The main difference between ‘advice’ and ‘advise’ is this: advice is a thing (a noun), advise is an action (a verb). They cannot be used interchangeably.
I advise you to get some advice about this matter.
Advise and Inform
While we’re on the topic of ‘advise’, we’ll spend a few moments considering the subtle distinction between ‘advise’ and ‘inform’. Many people use ‘advise’—perhaps they think it sounds polite—when they mean ‘inform’.
‘Inform’ means to ‘impart knowledge of a fact of circumstance’. For example, when you arrive at a place and want to let someone know about that, you don’t advise—give council of, offer an opinion about—them of your arrival, but you can inform them of your arrival.
The South Australian Government’s Plain English: Good Practice Guide draws this distinction: ‘You can advise a person to apply for a position, but you inform or tell them that they are eligible to apply.’ And in another example, ‘Please advise me if you would like a birthday cake for Friday’ doesn’t make sense. The speaker is asking to be ‘informed’ about the birthday cake situation; they’re not asking for opinion to be offered (‘advise’).
We hope this clears things up for you! Be sure to sign up to email alerts for our blog so you can see when we post the next instalment in our ‘Commonly Confused Words’ series.